Mexico must curb cartel violence | Houston Chronicle
By Mark Schneider
While the White House’s attention turned to a violent Middle East last week, right next door a vital ally faces a bloody challenge: In Mexico, 3,000 drug-cartel murders have been carried out in just the 100 days since the country’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, took office.
The new president has announced plans to address this problem - and to break with the policies of his predecessor, Felipe Calderón. The devil will be in the details, but Peña Nieto’s broad program is a important start.
Cartel murders since 2006 have surpassed 70,000 - nearly 20 times more than NATO combat deaths after a decade in Afghanistan.
When Calderón took office, he turned to the military, eventually enlisting 40 percent of the country’s soldiers in the fight. The rationale seemed clear: No other force appeared capable, given a paltry national police force and state and local forces unable to take on cartels armed with assault weapons and grenade launchers (often purchased in the United States.) But the military, once a universally respected institution, was not ready for this new task, and soon faced charges of abusing human rights.
The International Crisis Group’s new report, “Peña Nieto’s Challenge: Criminal Cartels and Rule of Law in Mexico,” traces the rise of the cartels under Calderón, the initial responses and the way forward being charted by Mexico’s new president.
The loss of Mexican lives has been extreme; the economic losses are, perhaps, immeasurable. Cartels terrorize enough of rural Mexico to transport large quantities of drugs the entire length of the country on their way to U.S. consumers, to steal oil from pipelines (as much as $4 billion worth each year) and to extort and kidnap for profit.
Photo: Flickr/Knight Foundation